Barbershop Pharmacists: A Good Rx for High Blood Pressure

Black barbershops can help clients lower blood pressure study

"There's open communication in a barbershop".

Some men were randomly assigned to meet with a trained pharmacist at each barbershop visit. "We have a lot more influence than just the doctor walking in the door".

The percentage of hypertensive black men with controlled blood pressure levels increased between 1999-2004 and 2009-2010, according to a 2014 study published in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences. A Cluster-Randomized Trial of Blood-Pressure Reduction in Black Barbershops. Victor is associate director of the Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

"Barbershops are a uniquely popular meeting place for African-American men", and many have gone every other week to the same barber for many years, he said. "It nearly has a social club feel to it, a delightful, friendly environment", he stated. That study was of 17 Dallas barbershops. An active control approach referred to barbers encouraging lifestyle modifications and doctor appointments.

In the new study, "we added a pharmacist into the mix" so medicines could be prescribed on the spot, he said.

Eric Muhammad, who owns New You Barbershop in Inglewood, was an eager participant. At the start of the study, about half of the participants were taking at least one blood pressure medication, with an overall average of one medication in both groups. By contrast, men who interacted with their barber and a pharmacist saw their systolic blood pressure drop from 153 mm Hg at the start of the study to 126 mm Hg after six months, along with a drop in diastolic blood pressure of 18 mm Hg.

Those who met with the pharmacist monthly in their barbershop lowered their systolic blood pressure by 21mm Hg more, on average, compared with the other men, said the report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Only 12 percent of the men who just got advice dropped to that level. While some people may be concerned to learn they now have high blood pressure, Gianos says that the new guidelines are a sign that experts are learning and improving their advice to people in order to further lower their risk of dying from heart-related causes.

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Marc Sims, a 43-year-old records clerk at a law firm, is one.

Victor said trust and rapport is essential because high blood pressure a chronic condition that requires ongoing care and lifestyle changes.

"A big takeaway from this study is to release the fears", said Muhammad, who is a co-author of the study. "All I could think about was me having a stroke and not being here for him".

If employed on a broad scale, the approach could make major inroads in treating African-American men, a population that is more likely than other races to have high blood pressure ― a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke ― and less likely to be in a doctor's care, researchers said.

The National Institutes of Health paid for the study. The results were announced March 12 at the American College of Cardiology conference in Orlando, Florida.

The cost of doing this isn't really known. In addition, they hope to expand the program to reach other parts of the country, as well as men with more moderately elevated blood pressure.

The results show that "you don't need cardiologists" to improve things, said Dr. Willie Lawrence, an American Heart Association spokesman and blood pressure specialist in Kansas City, Missouri.

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